It’s just been one of those days.
I woke up fine, but by the time I made it down to breakfast, Paul made a sarcastic comment about the way I handle the money.
“Unless you’re going to lift a finger to help me with it, you need to keep your mouth shut,” I said. I added a choice word in there too.
“All I’m saying is… ” he said, and then his voice droned on. I kept repeating my stance, and he kept saying, “All I’m saying …”
I couldn’t hear what he was wanting to say. I could only see red. I think somewhere deep within my gut, he was making sense, and if I’d just come to the surface and accept a little advice …
but alas, it was not to be. I think he was trying to tell me to keep the check he just earned out of the bank and in my purse because something always happened to it, but I’m not sure.
Later, I asked him to please change the lightbulbs in the house. This is probably the fifteenth request over a year’s time. The lightbulbs flicker out one by one. There are no lights in the girls’ closets. There are no lights working in any of the hallways. There are no lights working in our bathroom. The chandelier is missing a few as well. Most of them require a screwdriver or some special tool which means that one must wade through the mess in the garage which is also a sore spot between us.
Paul gave me the same old excuse that he’s been giving for over a year. The lights are from Ikea and require Ikea lightbulbs. He’s right for maybe … two of the lights. He’s not right about the other ten.
I said, “It would just be nice to ask you to do something and have it get done. I’d love it if a request didn’t somehow land right back in my lap. Can you just do something without my help for once?”
Wow. I was on a roll.
Paul switched a few lights. Greta’s closet got done, but not Elsa’s. The halls remain lightless. My bathroom lights are changed and helped me to see that I have hairs growing from my chin that I didn’t know about and I’ve been walking about in public like that for who knows how long?
Paul retreated to the outside to chop wood. I watched him for awhile, splitting the wood with one swing, and tossing the two pieces in a pile. I felt wretched and sour. I turned to the laundry.
My mother called to ask me what Paul wants for his birthday. It’s on the 17th.
“Well, you know he leaves on Wednesday, right?”
Mom said, “No. I didn’t realize he was leaving that soon. When can we celebrate it?”
I felt overwhelmed and tired at the thought of trying to celebrate over there with my family. “I guess the night before,” I said. “I have to work on Monday and Tuesday and we’ll leave Tuesday night.”
“Well, what is he wanting?” she asked.
My mind blanked. I could think of nothing within a reasonable price range that he wants.
“The only thing he keeps talking about, besides a sailboat, is one of those paddle boards,” I said, lamely. “But those are too expensive. Maybe just give him some money. We’ll get another wool sock for him to keep his money to save for a paddle board.”
“Well, how much are the paddle boards?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “When you can’t afford anything extra, you don’t bother looking. There’s one at Costco for $450.”
“Well, maybe Daddy can find one on Craig’s list,” she said.
“I’ve only got a couple hundred dollars budgeted for his birthday,” I said. “It’d have to be pretty cheap.”
My dad called. He’d already found ten and wanted me to check them out. There were 10 foot boards and 11 foot boards and kayaks and inflatable ones and ones that double as surf boards and …
I could see that I needed to pull Paul into the decision even though I hated to do it. It seems he never gets surprised.
Paul looked at the boards and decided on the perfect one. But it retailed at $1100 which meant that the guy selling it will probably hold firm on his $650 because it included a $300 paddle and $150 pad.
“Better just give him money,” I told my parents. “Maybe he can get it next year.”
What a bummer.
I knew I should apologize to Paul for the way I acted that morning but I felt it would sound hollow. I thought it wouldn’t be accepted. I guessed that he would just sigh and shake his head and say it’s okay in that really soft voice that made me feel worse than ever.
And I couldn’t stand to feel any worse.
Paul was short with me for the rest of the day. He was grumpy and moody.
It seems that people who are always cheerful and kind should be allowed days like that. But imagine a father who has never raised his voice in a little girl’s entire life. When he does finally yell at her in exasperation…
she’s going to cry.
That’s the way with Paul. He deserves grumpy, moody days — but they are so rare, so unexpectedly unpleasant, that I can’t handle it.
It’s doubly hard to handle it when I have a vague uneasiness that I’m at fault.
The real estate agent called me. He said, “I have an offer for your house sitting in front of me.”
“Really,” I said. “How much?”
“$140,000,” he said.
I shook my head in disbelief. It doesn’t even cover the materials.
“Do you think the bank will accept it?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It’s a pretty low offer. They’re interested in renting it back to you.”
“So, they aren’t even going to live in it?” I asked, incredulous. Somehow, I felt I could handle losing my house to a family who would love it. “They’re just investors?” The vultures!
“I guess,” he said.
I called the bank to check on our modification. Since I have no idea where work will turn up, I decided to pursue both avenues to prevent foreclosure. If Paul got a job here, then a modification might be right for us. He applied for a few local school jobs that opened up. The modification was sent to a team to be evaluated, which means that they are serious about considering it.
The thing is, you’re supposed to choose the short-sale route or the modification route. But I didn’t know where we’d be, so I ignored them and pursued both. I figured that the groups that handled these matters probably lived in separate states and worked in separate departments and they wouldn’t notice unless both happened at the same time, which seemed a long shot. I didn’t think a modification would be considered without any real income. And a short-sale seemed unlikely as well.
But here we are. Both are happening at the same time.
When I told Paul, he was pessimistic. “Whatever,” he said. “The bank won’t accept it.” He didn’t look excited or anxious or pained or relieved. He just kept slapping Wasabi mayonaisse on his hamburger buns.
We signed the papers at the real estate office. Soon after, a customer service agent from the bank called to request updated paystubs for the modification.
I’m just going to play dumb. When the modification people need something, I’ll be a modification hopeful. And when the short-sale people call, I’ll be a short-sale hopeful.
To add to all this, when Paul leaves on Wednesday, he will be completely unavailable in the middle of Bristol Bay for six weeks. The real estate agent recommended that Paul give me power of attorney so I can make decisions without him.
“Heh, heh, heh,” I cackled, rubbing my hands together, and giving Paul an evil leer. “This is all working according to my master plan.”
Downloading a power of attorney document runs about $22. There are so many other things I’d like to do with that money. A few pints at Red Dog with the SJs would be preferable.
Then, my friend Robin called me and gently reprimanded me for my bitter post of yesterday. She was so careful and approached me so nicely that even in the foul mood I was in, she got me to listen to her.
She’s right. I’m feeling sorry for myself and I need to snap out of it. But here I am, pounding out another bitter post.
I looked on the calendar and realized that we have one more day together as a family. Saturday. Sunday will be a big birthday bash with the extended family. Monday and Tuesday I work. Wednesday, the love of my life and the anchor of our family sallies forth into the deep waters to bring us home a chunk of cash — to what purpose? I have no idea.
I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and committed to making tomorrow a lovely day. I pulled out a picnic ham, planned to make him a cherry pie, wrote a shopping list for a fruit salad, sea salt and vinegar chips, and potatoes for potato scones in the morning.
We went to Greta’s school for an assembly. There is a teacher opening to which Paul applied. Because Paul still hunts and pecks when he types, he dictated much of the application while I typed. I looked at his application. He’s led students in building a cordwood greenhouse, led students to create their own flower and tree identification manuals, led students on life-changing trips …
when I taught freshment at the high school, student after student came up to me to tell me that Mr. Harris was the best teacher they ever had.
As I was filling out the application, I thought … he is so qualified, so perfect for this job. He’d be the only male teacher. He is so manly yet so gentle, calm and firm about expectations, funny and fun.
When we first woke up this morning, I said, “If you don’t get that job at Powell Butte, I think we should curse the public school system and walk away from it forever.”
I don’t even know if I really want him to get the job because I’m so confused about what we’re supposed to be doing. But this morning, I felt the travesty of all those cute little farm kids never knowing Paul and never getting to experience what it’s like to have his gentle ways, his fun stories, his enthusiasm for the outdoors, for birds and plants and flowers, for discovery.
They will miss so much.
At the assembly, I could tell Paul was uncomfortable. Maybe it was because of the rough morning we had. Maybe it was because he’s been without work for two years and it must be very, very humbling to put your application in with people that you know. Rejection is a cloud that gets darker and more dense with time.
I feel another pang of guilt that he should hear anything but kind words from me. If the world is so unkind and unforgiving, then his home should be tranquil and full of peace. Let him be king somewhere. Let him just be, without reproach, without a single hard word.
I wanted to apologize but somehow, I got distracted.
We went to tennis to give Elsa her racquet she forgot and we decided to wait in town to go to our neice Kylee’s graduation. After grabbing a bite to eat, I realized I’d forgotten to shop for Paul’s special day tomorrow. We’re late for the graduation. I told them I’ll drop them off, pick up the stuff, and find them after. In the traffic, Paul got completely exasperated and snapped at me– again, so unlike him!
After dropping the girls and Paul off, I pulled into the Grocery Outlet and gave myself the cry that’s been long overdue. I asked God, “How long must it be like this? How long?”
I think about Alaska and the possibility of Paul staying on there to build a house and maybe flying us up there and the house modifying or short-selling or foreclosing on the 13th and the kids being uprooted and the welcoming community here and in Washington and our beautiful house on the auction block and the car a mess and I haven’t bought seat covers yet and Paul on a paddle board on the water and happy and wishing to belong somewhere and wishing for family and friends and wanting to gather them all from the far ends of the earth to me and the fact that I’m healthy and I really shouldn’t complain and that I have the most wonderful husband in the world and I treated him badly today and I should be the happiest person if I could just pull my head out …
What do I want? I thought to myself.
I don’t know, I don’t know, I’m just a mess and I’m trying to be patient but I really suck at it.
If you don’t know what you want, you can’t ask for it. I tell myself.
I take a deep breath and clear my head.
I want closure … I think. I want closure and … I want a path. I want a path to run down.
Everything within me tells me that I’m right. That’s what I want. So I decide to ask for it.
I say the words aloud. I want closure and I want a path.
I forgot to ask. I just said what I wanted. That reveals so much about me.
But I somehow got an answer anyway.
In the mush of rapid, disconnected thoughts, Donald’s words came, “Paul will take you on adventures, and you’ll write about them,” and Robin’s words came to me, “You know, the person you should be writing about is standing right there,” and she pointed at Paul, and I thought of my husband and how nobody seems to want to hire him and that they’re all missing out and maybe he’s too big for any job and belongs wrapped in legend and presented as a gift to the world and then the girls and I can have him wholly to ourselves and yet share him with everyone.
Maybe he just needs to take us on an adventure.
And I’ll write about it.
I bet things will come up like when we slept in the tent in the rain and a river started running through it and I was so miserable but Paul just slept on and when I whimpered he woke up to comfort me and pretended to pounce on something and said, “Look, I caught a fish!’ It made me laugh and I climbed on top of him to sleep and the water streamed into the tent and just hit him in the neck and almost covered his ears but he still slept in that pool of water and I finally slept too, dry and warm, on top of him.
Perhaps these past two years have been me whimpering about the rain running through the tent. And perhaps the answer is to wake Paul to tell him about it. His solutions are unique.
And usually worth writing about.